Samos Island Name
There are several theories concerning the name of Samos. According to one of them, Samos comes from the ancient Ionian word “sama” which means “altitude by the beach”, as there are two very high mountains on the island.
Others suggest that the name Samos comes from the region Sami in Kefalonia, from which came the first inhabitant and king of Samos, called Agaios. According to another version, the island was named after Agaios’ daughter who was called Samos. Other researchers have found in ancient texts that Samos was named after the son of Hermes and Rini, whose name was Saos. Finally, some historians believe that “Samos” comes from the ancient inhabitants of the island, the Saios.
It is believed that Samos was inhabited around the 4th or 3rd millennium B.C. Findings from this period are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of the island. It is not clear whether the Saians (“Saioi”) were the first island’s inhabitants or, as in other islands of the Aegean Sea, the Pelasgians were the first to settle here. Next to arrive were the Phoenicians and the Carians.
Ancient & Classical Times
The Ancient and Classical Times constituted a period of glory and scientific development for the island. Around 650 B.C., the Ionians arrived on the island and brought their technological know-how and their commercial spirit. The period of prosperity continued and reached its highest point when Polycrates became the tyrant of Samos, in the 6th century B.C.
Samos was by then an important commercial centre of the Aegean thanks to its wine and ceramic pots, but it was also a key player in shipping as it was exporting its own products and transferring products to and from Egypt, Asia Minor, Corinth and the Black Sea.
At that time, scientific and technological progress were evident on the island, where magnificent projects were completed like the temple of Hera, the Eupalinos’ tunnel, the castle of Lykourgos, theatres, imposing palaces and the magnificent ancient port. Moreover, the island had its own currency, sample of which are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of the island.
It is not by chance that many renowned ancient philosophers, scientists and artists were born, educated and/or worked on Samos. Among them, the famous mathematician Pythagoras who founded geometry, the astronomer Aristarchus who first suggested that the sun was the centre of the universe, the gifted fables author Aesop, the philosopher Epicurus, the famous painter Agatharchos, the architects Roikos and Theodoros, Damo who was the daughter of Pythagoras and among the first women philosophers, and many others.
The decline of Samos began with the death of Polycrates in 522 B.C. The island resisted to the Persians, but was conquered by them after Polycrates’ death. In 379 B.C. the Samians led the revolution against the Persians.
Samos was part of the Athenian Alliance, but during the Peloponnesian War it left the alliance and was forced to return. After the end of the War and the loss of Athens, the Persians came back on the island until 366 B.C. when Athenian authority was restored.
During the Hellenistic Period, Samos was semi-autonomous.
Roman & Byzantine Times
During the Roman period Samos was quite prosperous as a part of the “Province of Asia” of the Roman Empire. In 189 B.C. it became part of the Kingdom of Pergamos, in approval of the Romans. Later on, it belonged to the “Province of the Islands” along with other Aegean islands. In 40 B.C. Cleopatra and Anthony spent an entire winter on Samos. The pirates attacked Samos many times in the Roman Era, but the island managed to survive and retain part of its glory.
In the Byzantine Period, Samos was the capital of the “Samos Region” although it was under decline. It was first attacked by the Syrians and then by the Cretans. In 1204 Samos resisted to and defeated the Russians who tried to dominate the Aegean Sea.
Samos’ decline continued in the Venetian Period, when the vast majority of the inhabitants left the island and went to Chios.
The Ottoman Period
The Ottomans arrived on the deserted island in 1549, when the admiral Kilitz Ali Pasa passed by Samos and requested the island’s authority by the Sultan. Apart from the Ottomans, who consequently came to the island, Kilitz Ali Pasa invited Greeks to come back to Samos, offered them many privileges and insisted that they could keep their religion, the Orthodox Christianity.
The Ottoman admiral who loved Samos managed to gather inhabitants from all over the Aegean, Asia Minor and even the Peloponnese. Samos was quite privileged compared to other Greek territories that were part of the Ottoman Empire as it was mainly autonomous.
The Greek Revolution
Samos resisted to the Ottomans during the Greek Revolution and managed to stay autonomous until 1830, when it was eventually granted to the occupants. In 1835, it became autonomous again but still belonged to the Ottomans. A big revolution against them was organized in 1849 and many Turks arrived on the island. Samos became part of the Greek State at the end of 1912.
Samos is among the biggest and most beautiful Greeks islands. The island’s economy is based on fishing, agriculture, tourism and mining. The Samian wine is excellent and it is exported all over the world.
During the past decades, Samos has been increasingly attracting visitors both from Greece and abroad, thanks to its dazzling beaches, its organized touristic services and infrastructure, its diversified landscapes and its unique monuments and places of exceptional beauty.
The island has approximately 36,000 inhabitants and features a hospital and a university, facts that prove that Samos is a lively island throughout the year.